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House of Images (2/2)

Updated: Jun 13, 2020

Situated in the heart of Asaga, Ohafia, the Obu Nkwa, “House of Images”, represents a major cultural monument of the Ohafia people and stands as a symbol of the architectural prowess of the Cross Riverian Igbo. Built as testaments of masculinity in a society in which women were the major traditional powerbrokers, obu houses were primarily meeting houses for male elders and members of male social clubs as well as shrines for local deities.

On the exterior mud walls of the Obu Nkwa of the Nde Ezera compound, female artists rendered vivid camwood paintings and religious ideograms, while in the interior are housed twenty-two life-size sculptures carved by skilled artisans. At the base of the large central column which holds the edifice erect, the founding ancestor of the village stands immortalized in a sculpture flanked by a young girl and a court messenger. Upon his shoulders stand his first wife. Other figures in the wide, spacious meeting room include warriors, elders, a hunter, several women, a white man, and a handcuffed criminal.

Due to its complexity and significance as an example of indigenous engineering, architecture, and art, the Obu Nkwa was declared a Nigerian national monument in the 1950s. In the 1970s, roughly a decade before this photograph was taken by the anthropologist Herbert M. Cole (1983), it suffered damage and a number of its religious artifacts were stolen and exported for sale.




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